Blitzcrank's sensors did not register the soft green grass blades his feet pounded through as alive, since they no longer fit the description as soon as he flattened and ripped them out of the dirt. The field he crossed in the League compound was a long rectangle, surrounded by forest that once served as the base for many a long-distance ambush. But it had been retired, made part of the no-combat zones, and thus the robot paid no attention to his surroundings as he stomped towards a lanky green figure gallivanting around some birds on a dirt path by the far line of trees.
When Blitzcrank approached within a few yards, the man stopped his leaping about and twisted his body around. He had a jagged black mouth that appeared cut out of his face with broken scissors and long white eyes that refused to blink. Small pieces of refuse permanently fluttered around his legs. The cohort of large birds he had attracted took to the sky in a single streak of black.
"HELLO," Blitzcrank said. A burst of steam popped out of his neck.
The green man neither moved nor spoke.
"I HAVE ACQUIRED A MISSION. I SEEK FRIENDS."
The white eyes squinted.
"WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND."
The gaping pit of a mouth widened, then shut. One eye remained part closed, the other opened and glanced up towards the sky.
The golden robot tilted his massive torso back, following the glance, hip servos locked to keep him from tumbling over. The birds glided in slow spirals overhead. One broke free of the flock and wound long, descending circles directly overhead. After several minutes it fluttered its wings over the robot and latched its talons onto his head.
It clinked around, unable to find solid purchase. The bird tried jabbing its rear talons into the gleaming dome, but it could only leave a series of pin-sized dents in the metal. Eventually it shat down the middle of the robot's face and flew away.
Blitzcrank straightened himself. Giant fingers swiped at the mess; it smudged across his cheeks. He inspected his stained-white fingertips, tilted forward to swipe them across the grass, then stood again to face the strange thin man.
But the man was already far off, bouncing foot to foot far down the path, camouflaged by the overhanging branches of the undisturbed forest.
Blitzcrank spun his hands, swung himself around, and tromped the other way.
The forest thickened around the tiny road, inching up to its border and shading it all the way to a bend just visible to the golem's long-range optic sensors. There was a faint splash from a stream in the left half of the forest. He kept scanning what parts of the sky he could see, but the birds remained absent. The sounds of other, smaller animals rustling in the trees rose up around him. His knowledge bank picked out the chitter of squirrels, the soft patter of hopping rabbit feet, and an arrhythmic metallic clink apart from himself that matched no known denizen of the wild.
He stopped. So did the clink.
A high-pitched voice laden with wonder emerged from the underbrush. "Are you a robot?"
"I AM A GOLEM." Steam burst out of his neck vent.
A little blue yordle burst out from the trees. Short white pigtails bounced on either side of the wide-mouthed gun strapped to her back. Large eyes took up almost half her face, bulging with awe. "You are a robot!" she exclaimed.
"YES. I SEEK FR-"
She ran up and poked her fingers into the gaps in his frame. "Where do you explode?"
Blitzcrank chugged. "WHAT."
"Mechanical stuff makes the best explosions! You must explode somewhere!" The yordle slid the huge (for her) gun over her shoulder and used the butt-end to thump all over the golem's thighs and shins.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING. THIS IS A NON-COMBAT ZONE."
She giggled, a splash of madness factoring into the pitch. "I don't want to fight you, I just want to see the explosion!"
"STOP. WHAT ARE YOU-"
The yordle wound back, hands tight around the gun's muzzle, and smashed Blitzcrank in the hip with it. The gear inside jumped a tooth; the foot spun parallel to the ground, then stomped flat. The golem tried to walk, but only moved in a circle as if the affected leg were nailed to the dirt. His cortex whirred, audible outside the shielded dome.
"OW," he said.
If the little menace heard him, she paid no attention. Her foot was on his knee, hand reaching for the edge of his chestplate; somehow she was climbing him with the gun still in her grasp. With a mighty leap and pull she wriggled her way next to his head, smacking him in the face with the gun muzzle when she swung her leg over his shoulder.
"What's here?" Stubby fingers dug down into Blitzcrank's upper back wiring.
"UNSAFE PROCEDURE. DESIST IMMEDIATELY."
She thumped the back of his head with a fist. "Stop complaining! This is gonna be great!"
Blitzcrank spun in circles, hands grasping for the mini-assaulter, but could not get hold. No matter how hard she pulled, however, the wires remained firmly attached; so she shoved her foot against the vent and stood behind his head, smacking him with open palms.
"Something's gotta open..." She banged the audio sensor on the side of the golem's head. He lurched to the side, leg hydraulics compressing to shift his balance.
"HELP. HELP. I AM BEING REPRESSED."
The yordle reached around the front to his face, covering his optic sensors. All Blitzcrank could see as he swung in blind circles were flashes of light and the little clock in the bottom right of his heads-up display.
"TO THE SCRAPYARD OF HISTORY GOES I."
The yordle's hands dragged across Blitzcrank's sensors, smearing them with a thin sheen of white. She slid down his arm, bounced to the ground, and ran into the trees, towards the stream, crying about bird poop.
The golem rubbed large fingers against his eyes. It cleared the center of his vision, but left smears at the edges. He banged a palm against his head.
"SYSTEM CHECK: OK."
And continued down the path.
After a time, the forests gave ground to a greater expanse of lush green fields. It was the original decommissioned arena, the only non-combat zone equipped with amenities useful to a champion with downtime: strings of benches, a large fountain dedicated with a statue of some unnamed Demacian hero, and a playground for any visiting children of champions. Only the playground was in use; Blitzcrank headed that way.
When he arrived, the small figure that had been tumbling around the slides and padded pit ducked behind the wall of a bridge connecting the two. The slats in the wall were widely spaced, leaving one of the child's eyes fully visible.
"Who are you?" A female voice.
"I AM A GOLEM."
The face behind the wall shifted, looking at him with the other eye. "What do you want?"
"I SEEK FRIENDS."
The girl popped up from her hiding spot, watching him openly from over the wall. The head of a stuffed bear peeked out next to her shoulder. "I already have a friend." She shook the bear at him.
"I DO NOT HAVE A FRIEND."
She disappeared again, a blur of colors in the wall's gaps. For a moment she was completely concealed; then she rolled down the slide and somersaulted off the edge, onto her feet. Her arms flung out to the sides, the bear hanging from one hand by its foot.
Blitzcrank spun his hand.
"Did you like it?"
"IT WAS." He spun his hand again. "IMPRESSIVE."
The girl giggled. "What's your name?"
"MY LABEL READS BLITZCRANK."
"HELLO ANNIE. WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND."
Annie tapped a finger against her lips, looking to the sky in thought.
"I don't know," she finally said. "Are you funny?"
"I AM FUNNY. I PUT THE GO IN..." Blitzcrank let the sentence drop. "CALCULATING NEW JOKE." Steam popped from a half-dozen gaps in the metal. His entire body shook.
Annie crept back a step. "Are you okay?"
All Blitzcrank's active functions stopped simultaneously. His voice buzzed. "NEW JOKE CALCULATED." A pair of head servos whirred. "ALL YOUR BEAR ARE BELONG TO US."
The girl leaned to one side. She turned the bear towards her and held it at arm's length. "I don't know, Mr. Tibbers." She glanced dubiously at the golem. "I don't think that's funny. Maybe you should decide." One hand pushed the bear's head down in a nod.
"I DO NOT UNDERSTAND."
She turned the bear towards him. "Mr. Tibbers has to decide if we should be friends with you."
Blitzcrank clomped forward. He bent and put his face inches from the animal. Behind the bear, Annie squinched up her face.
"You're a mess. That's not good for friends to be messy, Mr. Tibbers."
Blitzcrank leaned around the bear. "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND."
"You're all dirty!" She stuck her tongue out.
"THAT IS NOT THE SOURCE OF MY QUERY." The robot's leg pistons dropped him three inches, then popped him back up. "HOW DOES A TOY DECIDE FRIENDSHIP."
The girl hugged her bear close, her eyes growing large and upset. "What do you mean?"
Blitzcrank pointed at Tibbers. "IT IS NOT REAL."
"Not real?" Annie sniffled down at Tibbers. When she looked up again, flames danced in her pupils. "What do you mean, not real?"
Only the briefest brown streak dropping out of the sky registered in Blitzcrank's optics before the echo of a metal mass being crushed into the turf encompassed the playground. His hip servos whirred, but both thighs and his torso were pinned by the massive bear leaning its dripping jowls over his face.
Blitzcrank lifted his arms. Tibbers roared; an audio sensor sparked and died. Blitzcrank laid his arms back down.
"Big meanie." Annie walked over, skirt swishing, and swatted the robot's face with a stick.
"Come on, Mr. Tibbers." The bear climbed off Blitzcrank's chest and followed the little girl away from the playground. "We'll let him think about how real you are."
The robot's legs jerked. A surge of energy shook his arms, then left them motionless. He lay prone, his HUD going dark except for the clock.
The sun set on the dented, filthy robot as he approached the League's main recreational building, the gateway to the no-combat zones. His shoulders slumped, and his feet scuffed the ground with each step. The dirt kicked up by his encounter with the bear had mostly drifted off, but large clumps had stuck to the mess between his eyes.
He reached for the door, and
Blitzcrank sat on the ground, several feet away from the wall. The heavy steel door was closed, having slammed shut after it bounced off his face. The robot whacked himself in the head with his palm.
"SYSTEM CHECK: QUESTIONABLE."
The door cracked open. A woman's head and leather-clad shoulder poked out, red hair drifting around both. She glowered at the golem.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I." Blitzcrank's hands spun. "AM BLITZCRANK."
The woman shoved the door open. "I don't care who you are. Why did you try to stop me from getting out?"
"I." He spun his hands again. "SEEK FRIENDS."
The door's thud was ominous in the ensuing silence. The woman stepped around the golem in a slow, wide circle. Both hands rested on daggers sheathed on a waist belt. The heels of her black boots dug into the grass on the other side of the path.
"Did Veigar put you up to this?" She slipped a dagger off her waist and waggled the tip at him.
The white streaks on Blitzcrank's optics made the woman appear surrounded by a white halo; the black leather suit made her like a devil out of heaven. His vent puffed, and he shrugged. "WHO IS VEIGAR."
The dagger spun into the ground between Blitzcrank's legs.
"Don't **** with me!" The woman crossed the path and jabbed her finger at the golem's face. "Do not **** with me! I know he sent you! Why would you help that cretin? What could he have offered you? Or do you just not care because you like to mess with the girls too?"
"I AM RETURNING-" Another dagger whipped past Blitzcrank's head.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a woman in the League? All the leers and lines and the things these men try to get you to do? Of course not! Every day it's another asinine comment, another social reject winking or making little pinching motions. 'Woohoo, always good seeing Katrina move.' Ugh! And that little twit Veigar is the worst- as if being half the size makes him twice the pervert! The only reason they don't touch me is because they won't get their fingers back, but what about the other women, huh?"
Blitzcrank's voice box buzzed, but he said nothing. Katrina's arms punched out and flung up and down with each emphatic statement.
"It's exactly the same for Sivir, and Akali, and Eve- although I think Eve likes it, don't ask me why. Annie's too young for most of them, but the fact I have to say 'most' instead of 'all' should tell you all you need to know. And Janna, god, Janna's too nice for her own good. I keep telling her to tornado one of those idiots through the roof to get the point across, but she says no, it's not a battle, it's not a battle. Bull****! Our whole lives are battles around here, to get any kind of respect for our skills outside of the times we're trying to beat the **** out of each other!"
Katrina's attention appeared anywhere but the immediate surroundings, yet a third dagger thunked into the ground between Blitzcrank's arm and torso. He planted his huge hands into the ground and slid several inches back.
"For all the League says about it being a meritocracy, why are there so many male champions compared to females? I bet if the numbers were more even, this wouldn't be a problem because if it was we'd be kicking their asses all over this field. But no, the old *******s in charge can't see past the ends of their precious little wangers- and I bet little is more literal than you think! Even the demons are men- Cho'gath probably has a phallus bigger than your arm!"
Blitzcrank popped and flinched. "I DO NOT HAVE THIS DATA."
"And what's the end result? Is the League better off? Hell no! I could go to whatever's left of Ionia and find a half-dozen women that could hack it with these losers! They're not special! They're not great at anything! The only thing it does is give a ****-brained little midget moral support when he thinks he has the right to ask me to polish his ****ing rod!"
Katarina finished facing the building. She glared at the door, fists tight and held in front of her chest. Blitzcrank's cortex whirred.
"I DO NOT NEED A ROD POLISHED," he said. "ONLY MY FACE."
The redhead glanced at the golem. A long exhale escaped, as if the rage were slipping out of her. But her fists were still clenched as she approached him.
"Heh." She laughed briefly. "You look like Veigar's fantasy. Too bad you're a boy."
"I AM A GOLEM."
"Well, they built you like a boy. Stay here a minute."
Katarina disappeared. A deep voice inside the building roared in pain. Several seconds later she reappeared next to Blitzcrank and dropped a wet cloth on his face. He pushed it around until the haze on his optics was gone, then lifted it away.
"IS THE WORK COMPLETE."
Katarina took the cloth from him and dabbed a few small spots. "Yeah, all set." She gripped the cloth, glancing around, then tucked it over his chest plate like a bib.
"THANK YOU." His hand spun. "DOES THIS MAKE US FRIENDS."
"Friends?" The redhead's arms folded across her sternum. She smirked. "They might actually listen to you. And you're funny. So... sure. Friends." She stuck a hand out.
Blitzcrank grasped the hand carefully and shook it. After he let go, his body chugged up and down rapidly; he put his hands out and flipped them back and forth in shaky rhythm.
"What the hell is that?"
"MISSION COMPLETE HAPPY DANCE. EVERYONE GET DOWN."
Katarina held up a hand. "I'll... pass. But I'll see you around, metalhead."
She vanished again. Another angry snarl burst from the building's windows.
But Blitzcrank just kept on dancing.